Agricultural Engineering Safety Lesson Plan: Operator Safety


To identify general potential hazards associated with the operation of agricultural equipment.


Is operator safety important to you? If not, it should be. Why? Because accidents hurt and they cost. Anyone who has been in an accident and been badly injured knows that accidents hurt...badly. And yes, accidents cost! They cost in lost time, medical expenses, and necessity to hire help, property damage and the intangible costs associated with a permanent handicap or the loss of your health. What effect would a disability have on your lifestyle, your family or your earning power?


  1. Human limitations and capabilities can be classified into three groups:
    1. Physical
      • Strength
      • Reaction Time
      • Body Size
      • Age
      • Vision
      • Hearing
    2. Physiological - These characteristics include muscle tone and strength, your metabolism efficiency, resistance to illness and the amount of sleep or rest your body needs. These are affected by:
      • Fatigue
      • Drugs, alcohol and tobacco
      • Chemicals
      • Illness
      • Environmental conditions
    3. Psychological - The effect of emotions and moods.
      • Temper
      • Anxiety
      • Apathy
      • Preoccupation
      • Investigating it yourself

  2. Common machine hazards - Human and machine factors are involved in all accidents. Human error is usually due to one of the following:
    • Forgot something
    • Took a shortcut
    • Took a calculated risk
    • Ignored a warning
    • Used unsafe practices
    • Was preoccupied
    • Failed to recognize the hazard

    On the other hand, machines are involved to perform work and since power, motion and energy is involved, there is the potential for hazards to be present that are difficult to eliminate. Some of the most common machine hazards include:

    • Pinch points
    • Wrap points
    • Shear points
    • Crush points
    • Pull-in points
    • Free wheeling parts
    • Thrown object
    • Stored energy
    • Slips and falls
    • Slow moving vehicles
    • Second party hazards

  3. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
    1. Head protection - use hard hats or bump caps when around machinery.
    2. Eye protection - Eyes should be protected against dust and other irritants including spray painting, grinding or chemicals. Use safety glasses, goggles or face shields, depending upon the situation.
    3. Ear protection - Sound levels as low as 85 to 90 decibels can cause ear damage to begin and many farm machines are louder than this. Earplugs or muffs should be worn when you are exposed to a continuous noise level of 90 decibels or higher.
    4. Hand protection - Guard your hands against cuts, abrasions, chemical and skin irritation by wearing gloves that are appropriate for the job. Be sure to wear gloves that fit properly.
    5. Foot protection - Wear safety shoes when working around machinery or other places where your toes might be injured, as their steel toes will help your feet be free from harm.
    6. Respiratory protection - There are several different kinds of respiratory breathing devices and each does a specific job. Dust filters are recommended for trapping dust, chaff and other particles. Chemical cartridge respirators are used to purify inhaled air and are effective against most toxic vapors. Do not use them in silo or manure pits where there may be a lack of oxygen. Gas masks use a chemical filter to remove the more toxic vapors and particles in the air but should not be used where oxygen deficiency is a problem. The same can be said of the self-contained breathing apparatus as both are recommended in silos, grain bins and manure pits.
    7. Body protection - Certain kinds of agriculturally related jobs require specific clothing. Examples of this include exposure to chemicals where rubber or plastic garments should be used and when arc welding, make sure there isn't any skin exposed to ultra-violet rays.

Source: Fundamentals of Machine Operation - Agricultural Machinery Safety, Deere & Co.

Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service, Manhattan, Kansas.

The KSU Cooperative Extension Service provides practical, research-based information and educational programs to address critical issues facing individuals, families, farms, businesses and communities.

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